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Adventures in the mountains…

21 minute read

April 6, 2024, 6:38 PM

From March 20-22, Elyse and I made our quarterly weekend trip down to Staunton.  This was one where the planning was kind of light.  We planned the dates and booked the room well in advance (vacation at my work is scheduled all at once for the year in June), but the planning for the actual adveture was a little light.  So we just kind of played it by ear.  It turned out to be pretty fun, with a few hard want-to-see things, and a lot of happy surprises in between.  This trip started out somewhat unconventionally, though.  Elyse got an early start in order to see the “Fleet of the Future” event that Metro was running down on the mall, so she left early and took the train down to see that (I went the following week, so stay tuned for my reportback there).  I then left at my intended time, and scooped her from Vienna.  Once I got Elyse, we were on our way again, heading down I-66 to I-81.  The plan for the trip down was to stop in Middletown, where there was a place called Shaffer’s BBQ.  We stopped in there for lunch on the September trip, and enjoyed it so much that we went again this time.  Then our next stop was going to be Harrisonburg, because Elyse wanted to eat at D-Hall.

When we got off I-66 and onto I-81, though, we immediately noticed that the air was really smoky.  We didn’t know what was going on, so we made our planned stop at Shaffer’s and did some research online.  I ended up making a Reddit post while I was at Shaffer’s to see what I could find out.  Reddit is pretty useful for that, throwing a question out there and then seeing what you get back.  Consensus was that there were a bunch of wildfires burning in the state because of dry and windy weather, and that what we saw was most likely wildfire smoke.  Okay.

Then after we finished at Shaffer’s, we continued on our trip south, taking US 11 to avoid an issue near exit 291 on I-81.  While we were going down the road, Elyse spotted the source of the smoke: a large wildfire to our west.  Okay, then.  We pulled over and strategized a little bit, looking at Google Maps and figuring out how to tackle this.  We ended up playing it by ear, taking various back roads while keeping an eye on our target and navigating closer to it.  We pulled over at one point to get our bearings after going for a while without seeing the fire.  There, we sent the drone up and verified where it was relative to our location.

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Thinking about various church experiences…

22 minute read

March 9, 2024, 8:30 AM

Recently, I found myself discussing the Vacation Bible School that my sister and I attended in the mid nineties while I was in middle school.  It came from a post on /r/exchristian on Reddit, asking, “What do you still have memorized?”  My first reaction was to cite the offertory song that this program had us sing while they passed the plate around.  In thinking about it, I was struck by how misplaced the priorities were when it came to what this offering was to be used for (more on that later).  But then it also led to my recalling various other church experiences that I had while growing up, and how much of a mixed bag these things were.  Some experiences were quite good, while some them were not exactly all rainbows and sunshine.

For some background, I attended church from 1989 to 2003.  I was never that much of a “religious” person to begin with, having spent the first eight years of my life without it.  My father grew up Jewish, and has practiced no religion of any kind for most of his adult life, i.e. he is ethnically Jewish, but does not follow the religion.  Meanwhile, Mom grew up in the Presbyterian Church, and attended church regularly until she began college, and then did not attend church at all from 1969 to 1989.  Thus my early formative years contained no significant religious indoctrination, short of attending a Baptist preschool during our first year in Rogers, and the religious side of things in that program was super light.  I don’t remember doing much religious stuff there short of a few trips to the sanctuary and the “God is great, God is good” prayer before our daily snack.  Outside of this, Mom would occasionally discuss religious subjects with me, though nothing too deep, but even then, I was kind of a skeptic.  When Mom would try to explain this “God” person, the way that he was described defied everything that I had observed in the world, and so I was like, okay, sure, and not really buying it, even at a very young age.  Likewise, I saw no purpose to the prayer that Mom and I did each night before going to bed for some time, because I never really thought that we were speaking to anyone other than ourselves.

Then in 1989, Mom finally found a church that she liked.  As I understand it, when we first moved to Arkansas in 1985, Mom had First Presbyterian Church in Rogers pegged as somewhere that she had wanted to go from the outset, but she was unimpressed with the minister that was there at that time.  By 1989, that guy had left and a new person had taken his place, and Mom liked the new guy a lot more.  We typically went to church on Sundays, we did the after school program that they did on Wednesday afternoons, and then we also did the Vacation Bible School week during the summer.

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The most pointless school day ever…

7 minute read

February 17, 2024, 8:03 PM

This year marks thirty years since the most pointless day of my entire school career.  It was the only day that I attended where, if I were to do it all over again, I am 100% certain that I would have skipped it.  That was the day that Augusta County decided to have a snow make-up day on a Saturday.  Yes, you read that right: they had school on a Saturday.

I suppose that the lead-up to this made enough sense, because in Augusta County, the winter of 1994 was a very snowy one.  School was cancelled for a total of 16 days over the course of that winter for various weather events, including one instance where we were out for the entire week.  The thing about Augusta County, though, is that the schools use one calendar across the entire county, but being such a large county (only Pittsylvania is larger), the conditions end up being very different in various parts of the county.  So if road conditions would be too treacherous for students in the more rural western part of the county to go to school, they would call a snow day.  Thus, students in the more urbanized eastern part of the county (where I lived) would also get the day off, but our roads, being more heavily traveled, would typically be fine.  So with 16 snow days, three were built into the calendar, i.e. they made the school year 183 days long, assuming that we would have at least three snow days, i.e. those snow days were essentially freebies because the calendar already accounted for them.  That in itself was a first for Augusta County, as the previous year had no built-in snow days at all, therefore all of the snow days that we had that year had to be made up.  For a region that is north enough to get a lot of snow but south enough to where people still freak out over it, it’s surprising that they didn’t build in snow days before 1993, especially considering that the previous year had 14 snow days (why do I still remember this?).  So accounting for the three built-in days, that meant that we had to make up 13 days.

The way that Augusta County allocated make-up days was something that I disagreed with.  They generally preferred to use existing time off within the year for make-up days before extending the year out into June.  While they would add some days at the end of the year before some holidays, they only were in the make-up day plan after one or two other school holidays, conference days, teacher workdays, etc. had already been taken away.  So having 16 snow days, we were going to school five days a week from the last snow event in March all the way to June 17, with no breaks of any kind, as every single teacher workday, parent-teacher conference day, and long holiday weekend had been commandeered for instruction.  I would have preferred to just tack every single make-up day onto the end of the year in June and leave the breaks intact, because I felt like those off days had value because they prevented burnout all around (and trust me, the burnout was heavy that year, and was exacerbated by jackoffs like Frank Wade, who were more than happy to remind us that we had our Memorial Day holiday back in January).  And really, with the schools’ being out for more than two months in the summer already, it’s not like anyone would really notice an extra week.  If they had extended it out to June 24 or beyond, I doubt anyone would have cared much, except maybe those families who planned big vacations immediately after school let out (and they should know that the end date for the school year is really not set in stone until spring).

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A weekend in Augusta County, unsupervised…

28 minute read

December 22, 2023, 5:00 PM

I did my quarterly trip down to Augusta County on December 13-15, and this time, unlike most occasions when I do this trip, I was doing it completely unsupervised.  Elyse was pet-sitting for a friend of ours, and so she was in Fort Washington while I went down to Virginia.  With that in mind, I took full advantage of this situation, packing in all of the stuff that I would want to do that Elyse would probably not have the patience for.  In other words, lots of drone photography, mostly photographing Augusta County school buildings, with the thought’s being that very few people would get good aerials of these relatively small schools.  I had a good time, and I felt very productive.

I got out of the house around 11:00, and then hit the road.  This was a trip where I went down via US 29 and back via I-81, and things immediately did not look good, as I encountered major traffic on the Beltway.  That was annoying, but I recovered well enough, though I did start to contemplate how much of a difference it would have made to go an alternate route for a Charlottesville trajectory, with the thought’s being to 270 to 15 to 29, going via Point of Rocks and Leesburg, or something similar to that.  After all, the alternate route works well when I’m going to I-81.  That alternate route bypasses the Beltway and I-66, going to I-81 via US 340 and Route 7 via Harpers Ferry and Winchester, and only adds seven minutes to the trip.  I ran my proposed alternate route for 29 through Google, and it adds about thirty minutes to the drive to go across Montgomery and Frederick counties via local roads, and then 15 at Point of Rocks, and joining 29 just south of Haymarket.  This also bypasses the busiest part of my route on 29, in the Gainesville area.  The question really becomes a matter of whether this alternate route is worth the additional time to travel it vs. dealing with the annoyances of the Beltway and 66, as well as the additional cost involved with taking the express lanes.

In any case, once I got to the express lanes on the Beltway, I took them, and continued in the express lanes on I-66, because I didn’t want to risk any more delays.  I made a pit stop at the Sheetz in Haymarket, and then from there, I took 15 to 29 and then the rest was normal for a trip down via 29.  The plan was to dip into Warrenton on the way down to photograph some converted restaurant buildings.  I had spotted a few of these on past drives through Warrenton, and now I was going to do them, along with whatever else I found interesting on the way down.  This was also why I hit up the Sheetz in Haymarket rather than the third Sheetz (Bealeton) like I normally would.  Warrenton came before the third Sheetz, and I wanted some food inside of me before I got busy.

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Playing with the AI image generator…

22 minute read

October 27, 2023, 10:02 AM

Recently, a friend of mine posted some computer generated images from the Bing Image Creator, which uses the DALL-E system as its base.  I enjoyed their posts, so I decided to take it for a spin myself with subjects that were more relevant to me.  My first idea was to have it generate me.  The way I saw it, ChatGPT kinda sorta knew who I was, so it seemed reasonable to see if Bing Image Creator could perform similarly.

The first prompt that I gave it was “Ben Schumin in Washington, DC” and this is what it produced:

"Ben Schumin in Washington, DC" (1)  "Ben Schumin in Washington, DC" (2)

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A blank slate for the future…

9 minute read

September 20, 2023, 8:46 AM

From September 13-15, Elyse and I made our usual trip down to Staunton, where we photographed a bunch of stuff, did a bunch of other stuff, and also saw my parents.  On the middle day of our trip, I did what I consider to be a final update on the demolition of Staunton Mall.  The demolition work had been completed some time between our December trip, when I flew the drone around the mostly-demolished facility, and our March trip, but due to scheduling issues, I wasn’t able get out there to actually photograph it again until September.  With demolition completed, I intended to physically go in and photograph things with my DSLR and my phone, rather than go in by remote via the drone.  The idea was that with the demolition work completed, whatever was left should be pretty stable, so I didn’t need to worry about falling debris or anything else, because it was being left for an indefinite amount of time, until whatever new development that is to replace the mall begins construction.  Don’t get me wrong: the drone is a great piece of equipment, but it isn’t able to capture the same amount of detail that one can get by actually going in with a conventional camera and getting right up close to things.  That’s not a fault of my drone by any means.  You really don’t want to take the drone close enough to anything to get that level of detail in the first place, because that comes with an unacceptable level of risk of an accident.  If the drone makes contact with anything, the motors will stop, and it will go down.  The drone, by its nature, is also much faster moving photography than one might do when shooting conventionally, and as such, you’re not usually able to stop and appreciate what you’re looking at when you’re flying a drone, i.e. it’s easy to miss a lot of details in the moment.  With fairly limited fly time (a drone battery only lasts about 20-25 minutes), it behooves you to get in, get your shots, and get out.  By walking in, I was able to slow down and take more time to focus on my surroundings, and I noticed a lot more detail than I would otherwise.

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A fun weekend where no photography goals were met…

13 minute read

June 29, 2023, 8:44 AM

From June 21-23, Elyse and I made a weekend trip to Virginia, but instead of centering on Staunton like we usually do, we centered on Roanoke (but don’t worry – we still saw my parents in Stuarts Draft).  We had planned this trip largely as a photography outing, and then the weather didn’t cooperate.  It was raining continuously almost the entire time, which made for a more difficult drive than I would have liked, but the trip was worth it.  I guess that you could say that while we didn’t necessarily do much in the way as far as photography, we laid the groundwork for future trips by identifying potential subjects.  I didn’t want to lay groundwork for the future this time around, as I really wanted to bring home the goods, but such is what happens when the weather doesn’t cooperate.  I brought my DSLR and my drone on this trip, but neither one of them ever left their respective carrier.

The plan was to drive down from the DC area to Lynchburg via US 29, spend the afternoon and early evening of the first day in Lynchburg, and then head over to Roanoke, where we were staying at the Hampton Inn located downtown (the one built on top of a city parking garage).  Then we would spend the entire second day in Roanoke, largely with Commonwealth Coach & Trolley, which is a bus museum that Elyse and I both serve on the board of.  Then on the last day, we would head up to Staunton and Waynesboro, where I had some things that I wanted to get over there, before going over to see my parents.  What ended up happening was pretty similar to plan, but not quite.  Our departure was delayed, because we already knew that much of the day would be a rainout.  The drive down to Charlottesville was fine, making one stop for food at the third (Bealeton) Sheetz.  We made a brief stop at Barracks Road in Charlottesville, and then we were back on the road.  It started raining harder once we cleared Charlottesville, and we saw three different accidents between Charlottesville and Amherst where people had clearly wiped out after driving faster than conditions allowed.  One of those accidents was a police car, which was clearly totaled in its accident.  We took it slowly, especially since I didn’t have that much experience taking the new HR-V in driving rain like this before, plus I wasn’t as familiar with the stretch of 29 from Charlottesville to Lynchburg (particularly from I-64 to VA 151) as I am with 29 north of Charlottesville.

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Making a weekend trip out of a delivery…

15 minute read

April 7, 2023, 10:00 AM

Recently, I was finally able to complete the last little bits of business related to the car accident from last October, and put it all behind me.  On Thursday, March 30, I made the 175-mile journey to Stuarts Draft in the Scion – a trip that would leave it back home with my parents, where it belongs.  And while I was at it, I made a weekend trip out of it, coupling it with a day in Richmond, where I did some photography.  As such, I would traverse what I like to call Virginia’s “Interstate square”.  If you look at a map of Virginia, the various Interstate highways in the state form something like a lopsided square, consisting of I-66 to the north, I-81 to the west, I-64 to the south, and I-95 to the east, and Strasburg, the DC area, Richmond, and Staunton at the corners:

Virginia's Interstate square, with Strasburg, DC, Richmond, and Staunton at the corners.

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Walking through Afton Mountain…

5 minute read

March 20, 2023, 8:38 PM

From March 15-17, Elyse and I did another trip down to Augusta County, and we had a good time overall.  This was typical for these sorts of trips, in that we stayed at Hotel 24 South in Staunton, did stuff, and also visited my parents.  This was supposed to have been the trip where my parents’ Scion xB, which I’ve been driving since late October, went back to my parents to stay, but due to a delay in my new car’s arrival, it ended up being a pretty conventional trip.

On the middle day of our trip, we got together with our friends Evan and Andrew, and we visited the Blue Ridge Tunnel.  For those not familiar, the Blue Ridge Tunnel is a former railroad tunnel that was built in 1858, and was used by various railroads until 1944, when the tunnel was abandoned in favor of a new tunnel constructed nearby, which is still used by railroads today.  I had first learned about the Blue Ridge Tunnel when I was in high school, but while I knew that it existed as an abandoned tunnel, I never knew exactly where it was.  Otherwise, I probably would have sought it out and explored it.  In late 2020, the tunnel reopened as a rail trail, and the public was invited to hike the tunnel.  Elyse and I had it on our list of things that we wanted to do, and since our friends wanted to do it, this seemed like a perfect opportunity.  We all parked at the east trailhead, which is off of Route 6 on the Nelson County side of the mountain.  I got my DSLR and my tripod, and we were off.  We all hiked out to the tunnel together, but then when we got to the tunnel, Elyse, Evan, and Andrew hiked it more or less straight through, while I used the tripod with my DSLR to get some photos of the tunnel itself.

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Categories: Afton Mountain, Friends, Travel

Lots and lots of rubble…

5 minute read

December 21, 2022, 10:54 AM

You may remember that in my last Staunton Mall update, I said, speaking of the mall as it might appear in December, “I would not be surprised if the demolition was complete by then, and we’re looking at an empty slab plus Belk at that time.  I suppose that we’ll all find out together whether I’m right or not.”  Now that the December trip down that way is over with, I can say that I was not correct.  The demolition has certainly progressed, but as of December 16, the work is still by no means complete, though there is now more rubble than there is intact structure.

For this update, I once again did a flyover of the mall with the drone to get both overview and detailed shots of the former Staunton Mall.  I started with the overview:

Overview of Staunton Mall, facing southeast.

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A long-awaited resolution to a surprisingly contentious issue…

8 minute read

November 18, 2022, 10:00 AM

Sometimes, when it comes to elections, the ones that we lock onto most are little local issues.  For me, it was the courthouse issue in Augusta County, Virginia.  For those not familiar, Augusta County is the area where I grew up, and the courthouse is located in Staunton.  That means, due to all cities’ being independent from counties in Virginia, the Augusta County courthouse is technically located outside of the county (though that is not unique to Augusta County by any means).  As I understand it, for quite some time, Augusta County has been short on space for its courts, and has been looking to replace its courthouse with something bigger and more modern.  Then to add another wrinkle to this, the rest of the Augusta County government had moved out to nearby Verona, located just north of Staunton, long ago.  When we moved to the area in 1992, the Augusta County Government Center was a relatively new building in Verona, and since then, a regional jail has been built in Verona, the sheriff’s office moved to Verona, and the school system headquarters moved to Verona (though the schools moved from elsewhere in the county, not from Staunton).  The only thing left in Staunton was the courts.  The kicker there was that the location of the courthouse determined what town was the county seat, and moving the county seat required a referendum to be placed before the voters.  And as you know, voters can be an odd bunch.  Sometimes they perform the way you want or expect them to, but sometimes they don’t.  And generally speaking, some things will never pass by referendum.  If you’re raising taxes, for example, it will fail when taken to the voters, because in all fairness, who is going to vote to raise their own taxes?

The problem with the courthouse in Augusta County has been longstanding.  The Augusta County courthouse had fallen below state standards for court facilities some time ago, and because of that, the county had been given a “show cause” order to improve the courts.  County leaders also stated that they were unable to renovate their existing court facilities to meet current state standards.  Thus it was necessary to build a new courthouse.

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And the outer walls begin to fall…

5 minute read

November 3, 2022, 8:09 AM

On October 26, Elyse and I took a one-day trip down to Augusta County in order to change to the “permanent temporary solution” for my car problem, i.e. Mom’s Scion xB, following the HR-V’s untimely demise in an accident two and a half weeks prior.  I don’t necessarily like doing these sorts of trips in a single day because it’s a lot of driving and I’m not 25 anymore, but that’s all I had time for based on my schedule.  I also couldn’t really postpone this trip, because things were going to get a bit more expensive for me if I didn’t do this trip when I did.  For those not familiar, when you have Progressive for your insurance and your car is totaled, your rental coverage ends three days after you are notified of your car’s total loss.  That notification occurred while Elyse and I were on a weeklong trip to Tennessee, and so Progressive, taking my length of time as a customer (18 years!) into consideration, they extended my coverage until the day after we got back from our trip.  Then Enterprise Rent-A-Car would let me pay the insurance rate for my rental for another week beyond that, after which I would have to pay the (much higher) retail rate.  My original plan was to switch cars on the way back home, returning the rental car in Staunton, and then doing the last leg of the return trip in Mom’s car.  As the trip continued on, though, I soon realized that we would be cutting it far too close with that plan, considering that it was also our Roanoke day, so I opted to postpone the car swap by a week and do the visit with my parents on the way home as we had planned to do it prior to the accident, i.e. it would just be a visit.  So the primary focus of this trip was just to swap cars, on the day that the retail rate would have gone into effect, i.e. if you don’t return this car right now, you will be paying a lot more for it going forward.  The addition of this new trip down also changed the plans for the last day of the Tennessee trip.  Since there would now be an extra trip down to Staunton, I skipped a Staunton Mall update that I had planned for the return trip to save time, since I would be going right there the following week.

For this particular Staunton Mall visit, noting the pace of the progress that I had observed in June, August, and September, I already had a decent idea about what to expect.  I figured that by my next visit, the remainder of the mall’s interior would be gone, and they would probably then start working on demolishing the exterior walls, which had remained mostly intact up to this point, which meant that Staunton Mall still largely looked like Staunton Mall from the road during most of the demolition up to that point.  I also knew that I didn’t have much time on site this time around, and that the demolition crew would more than likely be on the property.  Therefore, this was to be a high-level visit solely by drone, flown from well above the property where I could see my vehicle around the entire mall without having to reposition myself, and staying well clear of the demolition crew, since I didn’t want to get in their way at all, and I also didn’t have any time to discuss any special access with them, as I did in September to photograph what remained of the mall’s interior.  All of that said, I made a quick ten-minute flight where I flew from the Orchard Hill Square shopping center across the street, and made a pass across the front of the mall, looped around the entire property, and then dipped down near the Belk entrance where there were no workers present for a momentary peek at that area before returning to the launch site.

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A little adventure in Virginia, mostly in the woods…

26 minute read

October 6, 2022, 8:06 AM

From September 13-15, Elyse and I had a little weekend adventure in Virginia, where we went down to Augusta County stayed in Staunton like we usually do.  This one was a little different than most because it was partly a solo adventure.  Prior to this trip, Elyse had been down in Roanoke attending to business related to a nonprofit that she volunteers with, so she traveled up from there on Amtrak, and we met up in Charlottesville.  My original plan was to go the easterly route down, taking I-95 to Fredericksburg and then taking Route 3, Route 20, US 15, and a few other routes that would take me through Locust Grove, Orange, and Gordonsville.  However, at the last minute, I had a change of heart, deciding that (A) I didn’t feel like wading through traffic on the Beltway or 95, (B) that easterly track would get me to Charlottesville far too early, meaning that I would have to kill time before Elyse would arrive, and (C) I had ideas that necessitated taking other routes.  So I took the westernmost route, which primarily utilizes I-81, and took the “alternate” version of that, which goes through Harpers Ferry and Charles Town in West Virginia via US 340, and then taking Route 7 to meet I-81 in Winchester.  Yes, I’m going north to head south, but the distance and time for going out to Harpers Ferry is almost the same as it is to go through Northern Virginia on I-66, so it works.

My first point of interest was a relatively obscure sign in the middle of a field in Verona:


Image: Google Street View

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Thirty years ago, we arrived…

18 minute read

September 5, 2022, 6:10 PM

August 31, 2022 marked 30 years from the day that my family came to Virginia, after having lived in Arkansas for the previous seven and a half years.  Thirty years is a little less than three quarters of my life thus far.  It just seems so weird to think about it that way.  But it really does mark the beginning of an era in my life, because unlike more recent moves, the move from Arkansas to Virginia was a clean separation, leaving a lot of elements of my life behind and starting new in Virginia, especially in those pre-Internet days, when there was no social media to keep in contact with everyone.  Additionally, having no family out there, I have not been back since we left.  The moves since then were not quite as clean of a break as the move from Arkansas was.  My 2007 move to Maryland was only me, and my parents stayed where they were.  Plus, as it’s only a few hours away, I can go down there almost any time I want, including down and back in the same day.  Then my 2017 move was local, so nothing else changed in my life other than the location of my house, and my commute to work.  I just upgraded my living situation, and that was it.

The move to Virginia was the culmination of something that was a long time coming.  My parents never really wanted to live in Arkansas to begin with, but it was a good career move for Dad with Scott Nonwovens, so they begrudgingly did it, and so we left New Jersey for Arkansas in February 1985.  I remember Mom’s mentioning a number of times early on about wanting to move back to New Jersey.  And in all fairness, that was understandable.  Dad had something to do in Rogers, as he was the one with the job.  Mom didn’t know anyone, and her primary role at that time was to take care of a newborn and a preschooler.  She had left everyone she knew when we left New Jersey, and it took a while to meet people and form new relationships, though that improved once Mom got a job at the Walton Life Fitness Center in Bentonville.  We also didn’t get along with our next door neighbors on one side, as their kids were out of control.  That ultimately led to something of a falling out.  We put slats in our existing fence on that side so that we wouldn’t have to see them when we were in the backyard, and they built an entirely new spite fence on their side so that they wouldn’t have to see us.  The neighbors on the other side were a retired couple, and they were awesome.

Meanwhile, the education situation in Rogers had really come to a head.  I had just completed fifth grade, which was my worst year from kindergarten through high school, without question, and that had followed third and fourth grade years that were pretty rough as well.  My parents had gone about as far as they could with the school system, and no one was looking forward to another year at Bonnie Grimes Elementary.  I was also hearing all kinds of rumblings at the time from my parents about changes afoot.  One was that we would not be returning to Grimes Elementary again, and I was also hearing things about moving, which made me think that something big and life-changing was coming, but nothing concrete as of yet.  It had been rumored that Scott had wanted to transfer my father to their corporate office in Philadelphia, and so it seemed like we would probably be moving back to New Jersey, as Mom had wanted all along.  I didn’t want to move, because unlike my parents, Rogers was pretty much all that I knew, and I was used to it.

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An unexpected Staunton Mall update…

7 minute read

August 13, 2022, 10:00 AM

On Thursday, August 11, 2022, I made what you might call an unexpected trip down to Augusta County.  Since the previous Sunday, Elyse had been down in Roanoke attending to some business related to a nonprofit that she is involved with, and was supposed to come back on Wednesday evening via Amtrak.  However, due to some heavy thunderstorms across Virginia that day, her Amtrak train was significantly delayed due to flooding and fallen trees, which meant that she only got as far as Charlottesville before delays on top of more delays meant that she would not arrive in Washington for many hours.  She ended up getting off the train in Charlottesville, and stayed overnight at my parents’ house.  That was a strange thing, with Elyse sending me photos from my old bedroom and all, while I was at home in Maryland.  Then since I was off on Thursday, I ended up coming down there to scoop her up and bring her home.  I figured that this was a good excuse for a road trip, so I gathered up my DSLR and my drone and hit the road.  We did a lot of stuff on this one-day trip, including spending quality time with the parents, but photographically, my main push was to get another update for Staunton Mall, after I had previously given an update in June.

Since my last visit, the mall has continued to be hollowed out.  When I visited in June, the interior walls were mostly demolished, with only the exterior walls remaining, from JCPenney to just past the Peebles.  From the end of Peebles to Montgomery Ward was where most of the demolition was occurring, as the roof was off of the mall corridor, while the stores were mostly still there.  The Wards building and the Belk wing were still mostly intact.  Now, the Wards building has been hollowed out to the exterior walls, as has the Belk wing up to the mall entrance next to Family Barber & Beauty.  I imagine that there is a reason behind the way that they’re doing this, demolishing the interior while leaving the exterior mostly intact until the end, but I don’t know what the reason is.

I followed the same process that I did before when it came to documenting the demolition of Staunton Mall.  I first drove around the property in order to figure out what was worth checking out, and then took the drone up for some flights near the areas that I wanted to photograph.  After all, why send my soft, vulnerable little body in there where things are unstable and could fall on me, when I can send a robot in my place and live vicariously through its eyes, while remaining in a place of safety at all times.  In this case, I parked in front of Boston Beanery to check out the south end of the mall, and then repositioned in front of Family Barber & Beauty to do the north end of the mall.

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